Signor Dido: Stories – Alberto Savinio , Richard Pevear (Translator and Intro)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Signor Dido feels himself borne along by the present as by a river. He loves those who share the same river with him, his river companions: he loves them out of solidarity, even those he hates. But does Signor Dido hate anyone?…Signor Dido has no time to hate. To hate means to have time to waste.”

Maybe Signor Dido doesn’t hate, but he sure is frustrated with people, including friends and family.

So who is Signor Dido? He is the alter ego of the late Alberto Savinio, a mid-twentieth century Italian writer, composer, painter and musician. Signor Dido is a collection of his later essays, told from the first person,  published 1949-1952.These works were sent for publication before his death in 1952, but didn’t get published until 1978. This collection was re-released in 2014.

So why should we care? After all, Alberto Savinio was relatively unknown in the United States, and I  had never heard of him before reading Signor Dido.

Simply, these stories are quite enjoyable. They take everyday, ordinary life and make it interesting. Savinio accomplishes this through a droll comic and often self-depreciating style . Readers may also relate to some of situations.

In “Signor Dido’s Afternoon” Dido feels trapped  as he desperately tries to find solitude in his own house. In many of the  stories he seems dissatisfied,  but unable to change anything.

A battle between family members  through the treatment of friends is explored in “Parents and Children”. Though he doesn’t express it directly, I think that he feels he gets some control  over his life back through this little power-play.

Though there are so many great stories here, I think my favorite is “A White and Luminous House” where he realizes that his memory of a place  is often exaggerated and once he returns, it’s not the same as he remembered.  But then again, there’s “Muse” a story of a young typist who Signor Dido is intrigued by.

Whether you are familiar with Alberto Savinio or not, Signor Dido will provide an afternoon of fun and delightful reading.

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